A GRAMMAR OF NEW ITHKUIL
A CONSTRUCTED LANGUAGE
Syntax refers to the rules for sequencing the order of words within a phrase or sentence, including rules permitting more than one possible sequential ordering of words. To understand the following discussion of New Ithkuil syntax it is necessary to have a cursory understanding of the notions of semantic role, pragmatic role, and grammatical (or syntactical) relations:
In general, the syntax of a language either (1) establishes the permissible grammatical relations of the language, (2) reflects and/or reinforces semantic roles, (3) reflects and/or reinforces pragmatic roles, or (4) any combination of these. As one might surmise from the above, English syntax is weighted heavily toward establishing grammatical relations at the near-total expense of identifying semantic roles. As for pragmatic roles, English rarely reflects these in its syntax (one exception is the strong tendency for placing wh- question words in sentence-initial position in specialized questions, even if they represent a direct object, e.g., What have you done? or Who[m] are they talking about?), however, such roles do tend to be marked “supra-segmentally” by inflection of vocal pitch and tone of voice.
As explained in Chapter 4, New Ithkuil uses noun cases to mark semantic roles morphologically as opposed to syntactically. And since grammatial relations in and of themselves are relatively arbitrary within language, New Ithkuil uses word order primarily to accomplish pragmatic relations, i.e., to indicate the topic and/or focus of a sentence. The language has additional word order constraints necessary to ensure avoidance of ambiguity in determining which nouns lie in apposition to their head, and which words of a compound sentence lie within a case-frame as opposed to outside the case-frame. The specifics of Ithkuil word order are explained in the sections below.
11.1 Main Clauses
The default word order of main clauses (i.e., clauses containing an unframed verbal formative) is verb-initial. A formative with semantic focus is placed immediately preceding the main verb, while a semantic topic is placed in sentence-initial position.
11.2 Subordinate clauses
Subordinate clauses (i.e., clauses that are case-framed) are mandatorily verb-initial. Formatives with semantic focus or topicalization must utilize the TPF affix.
11.3 Arguments to a Verb
As a default word order for nominal formatives that are direct participants (or to use the linguistic term, arguments) to a verb, higher-order transrelative arguments are placed closer to the main verb than lower-order arguments, the criteria being agency (and by implication, animacy). For example., a noun in ergative case is placed closer to the verb than one marked absolutive, which in turn is placed closer to the verb than one marked dative. Note however that such ordering is merely a default and is not mandatory. Any ordering of arguments to a verb is acceptable as long as their case-marking causes no ambiguity. Re-ordering of the formative may, in fact, be desirable when one or more of the arguments is in apposition with an Appositive, Associative, Relational, or Affinitive argument (see Sec. 11.4 immediately below).
11.4 Formatives in Apposition
Formatives modifying another formative (e.g., marked in one of the Appositive, Associative, Relational, or Affinitive Cases) must be immediately juxtaposed unless a Case-Scoping affix makes their relationship clear. Default apposition order is that the modifying formative follows the formative being modified. However, this default order is only mandatory if the relationships between a series of successive formatives would otherwise be ambiguous. If not, then the two formatives may be in either order: modified-modifier or modifier-modified.
Referentials follow the main verb to which they are arguments; however, if the Referential is topicalized or has semantic focus, then it may precede the main verb as per the first rule above. If associated with formatives other than the main verb, the Referential normally follows the formative or other Referential with which it is associated; however, if case-marking makes clear the association between the Referential and the formative (or other adjunct), then the Referential may precede its associated formative or adjunct.
11.6 Modular and Affixual Adjuncts
A modular adjunct normally immediately precedes a formative and is considered semantically part of it. An affixual adjunct likewise precedes its formative (or that formative’s modular adjunct). For formatives otherwise in sentence-final position, a modular adjunct or an affixual adjunct can be placed after the formative in sentence-final position.
11.7 Register, Carrier, Quotative, Naming, and Phrasal Adjuncts
Given that these adjuncts signal the beginning (and/or ending) of various specialized types of words/phrases, their position in a sentence is obviously determined by the beginning (or ending) of the word/phrase in question.
11.8 Juncture between sentences
The ultimate stress on a non-monosyllabic main verbal formative in sentence-initial position (including concatenated verbal formatives but NOT including any preceding adjuncts) shall be sufficient to indicate the beginning of a new sentence. Additionally, any sentence at the beginning of a breath group (i.e., an initial utterance or an utterance preceded by a pause for breath) shall require no further indication that a new sentence has begun. Otherwise, the first word of a new sentence shall take a word-initial prefix ç(ë)- to indicate the beginning of a new sentence. The form of the prefix before vowels is ç- (replacing the initial glottal-stop), while the form before consonants besides w- and y- is çë-. For words with initial w-, the ç- plus w- become çw-; for ç- plus y-, these combine to become çç-. All formatives and adjuncts have now been redesigned/modified where necessary to accommodate this without creating any ambiguities. When used before consonants besides w- and y-, the word-initial çë- prefix never takes syllabic stress (if necessary, add additional default syllables via Slots VIII and/or IX instead or by avoiding the use of a CA shortcut).
11.9 Bias Adjuncts
A Bias Adjunct should be pronounced with both a preceding and following pause, just as in English we tend to pause for breath before uttering a supra-segmental expression, e.g., ‘Phew!...’, ‘Ugh!...’, ‘Hmm...’, etc., and pause afterward.